House kills so-called “Constitutional Carry” bill

Senate Bill 2618, the so-called “Constitutional Carry” bill, was killed in the house this week. Rep. Andy Gipson argued that the bill was not fundamentally sound and did not strengthen gun rights in Mississippi where open carry, unlicensed vehicle carry, and concealed carry are already legal. Gipson stated the House “remains committed to passing good legislation that further supports and restores the Second Amendment rights of Mississippians. But [the House of Representatives] will do so independently of questionable organizations, in a manner that retains integrity and in a way that will not risk sacrificing the many gains we have made the last four years.”

Gipson has been a staunch gun rights proponent. Under his leadership in 2013, the House passed and the Governor later signed House Bill 2 which, Gipson stated, reflects what the Mississippi State Constitution Article 3, Section 12 already guarantees.  Specifically, House Bill 2 clarified the definition of concealed carry in Sections 45-9-101, 97-37-1, 97-37-15, and 97-37-19 of Mississippi state law.

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House passes several Senate bills

With March 11th being the deadline for the House to take action on bills and constitutional amendments originating in the Senate, several significant issues were settled.  From the House of Representatives Weekly Summary, the following issues were approved:

Senate Bill 2389 is an Article V vehicle to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced federal budget and limit the ability of Congress to raise the debt limit without states’ approval. The bill was passed by the House but not without some contention between Democrats and Republicans.

Senate Bill 2695, the “Special Needs Bill,” was passed to set-up a pilot program to give parents of special needs students allotments (or vouchers up to $6,500) to can seek the educational opportunities appropriate and best suited for their children’s specific situation.

Senate Bill 2161 establishes a commission to study Common Core State Standards, determine suitability for Mississippi school children, and present recommendations to the State Board of Education.

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“Constitutional Carry” bills under fire

Rep. Andy Gipson and other gun rights advocates have come out against Senate Bill 2618 known as the “Constitutional Carry” bill. Constitutional Carry is the ability for citizens to carry a gun just because the U.S. Constitution preserves that right in the 2nd Amendment. According to Rick Ward, “That means no permit, no application, no background checks, no government approval, no fees, and no training requirement.”

Rep. Gipson says that the bill, passed by the Senate, was not a “constitutional carry” bill and identified  the following:

Section 1 of the bill as passed the Senate included a general prohibition on concealed carry of pistols, revolvers, and an assortment of knives and other types of weapons.

Section 2 of the bill as passed the Senate included the requirement under current law (Section 45-9-101) of a concealed carry license for the concealed carry of stun guns, pistols and revolvers. Subsection 13 of this provision prohibits concealed carry, even by licensees, in numerous prohibited locations.

House Judiciary B Committee has amended the bill submitted to them by the Senate into something Gipson says is better legislation. However the final product has not been voted upon by the House. The Senate will also have to vote on the new language.

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Special Election for House District 1 Announced

Gov. Bryant announced a special election will take place May 12th to fill the 1st Congressional District seat that has been open since Rep. Alan Nunnelee’s death on February 6th. The winner of the special election will serve the remainder of the 2-year term which will end in 2017.

State Rep. Chris Brown has said he will run. Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert, businessman Quentin Whitwell, and attorney Chip Mills have expressed interest. Travis Childers, who formerly held the seat from 2008-2011, has yet to make an announcement. March 27th is the qualifying deadline.

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Senate Education Committee passes “Tim Tebow” bill

Senate Bill 2329, a bill to allow home school students play public school sports, survived committee and passed to the Mississippi Senate. Named the “Tim Tebow Act” after the eponymous football player and home schooler who benefitted from a similar law in Florida, over 20 states already have laws that allow such access.

Sen. Joey Fillingane, the bill sponsor, argues that home school parents also pay taxes and should have equal access to extracurricular activities. Sen. Angela Hill believes, “We have a lot of people who are saving the state a lot of tax money by home schooling. . . I think it’s just a goodwill gesture that these kids could integrate with the school system and play sports if they want to.”

The bill originally included language that required documenting that home school academic standards were the same as public schools. The Senate Education Committee streamlined the wording require validation of academic achievement by “grade level testing administered by a school psychometrist.” Mississippi Home Educators Association (MHEA) opposes the bill since such language invites government intrusion and regulation of home schools. MHEA’s 5 Feb 2015 Facebook post expressed that “If this bill becomes law, it will be only a small step for psychometric testing to move from the realm of equal access to all home educators.”

SB 2329 also defines a home school as “a nonpublic school in which one or more children of not more than two (2) families or households receive full-time supervised academic instruction from a parent, legal guardian, or member of either household.” This definition is more restrictive than Mississippi’s compulsory education law and limits parents’ education options. With a new and different definition on the books, future courts could interpret statutes unpredictably and negatively impact home schools.

Sen. Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula, another opponent of the bill, believes that there should be no picking and choosing of public services stating, “You’re saying ‘I want to home school my child but I want the benefit of public school athletics. . . It’s kind of wanting to have your cake and eat it too.”

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MAEP Initiative 42 on 2015 Ballot

By gathering enough signatures, MAEP proponents have placed Initiative 42 on the 2015 General Election ballot. Per the Secretary of State press release, “Initiative #42 seeks to amend the State Constitution to require the full funding of education and grant the Chancery Court of Hinds County the power to enforce the full funding of education with appropriate injunctive relief.”

Currently, the Mississippi State Constitution entrusts education funding to the State Legislature.  Section 201, states “The Legislature shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of free public schools upon such conditions and limitations as the Legislature may prescribe.”

The 2015 ballot will simply read, “Should the state be required to provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools?”

However, Initiative 42 will amend Section 201 of State Constitution to read as follows: “To protect each child’s fundamental right to educational opportunity, the State shall, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools. The chancery courts of this State shall have the power to enforce this section with appropriate injunctive relief.”

MAEP is a formula adopted by the State Legislature (MS Code § 37-151-7) in 1997 to define funding levels for public education in Mississippi. Of the $6 Billion 2014 state budget, education received about $2.4 Billion.  Fully funding MAEP would require 10-15% more funding and has been fully funded twice since it’s adoption.

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